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Edmonton gets it right with Uber, while Montreal gets it wrong

The Uber logo is seen in front of protesting Montreal taxi drivers who are trying to crush Uber’s head with an injunction against the ride-sharing company.

Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

It was created to give consumers more choice but it seems Uber, the ride-sharing service, is also an unexpected boon to lawyers.

In the continuing battle against the market-disrupting interloper, lawyers for Quebec's 4,000 cab drivers and licence owners were in court on Tuesday morning seeking an injunction to shut Uber down for good.

That includes the unusual and technically difficult demand of rendering the company's successful mobile app inaccessible in Quebec.

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The taxi drivers have also announced plans to file a class-action suit seeking to recoup lost revenues since the California company's arrival. At least they've dropped all pretense that this is about anything other than money and market share.

Any victory will likely be temporary – several Canadian courts have already ruled in Uber's favour – and in any case the exercise is unproductive. Especially when you consider what the City of Edmonton did last week.

Rather than resisting technology's advance via the courts or government fiat, the Alberta capital's city council opted to normalize the outlaws and bring them into the regulatory fold.

Thus, Uber agrees to a litany of conditions – safety and criminal record checks, commercial insurance coverage, minimum charges, an annual operating fee – and the legacy cabs' monopoly is broken.

It's a sensible arrangement, and one that's good for customers. Ride-sharing operations have produced tangible benefits: In some U.S. cities they've expanded transit options in places poorly served by taxis and municipal services.

In Canada, stultified, comfortable monopolies have been forced to improve, innovate and in some cases – gasp! – lower prices.

No one is saying ride-share companies should be allowed to do what they want. But Edmonton has provided a template on how to both increase competition, a highly desirable thing, and set equitable rules for all to play by.

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Toronto Mayor John Tory, whose city has declared Uber illegal, says he is a fan of the approach. It's not too late for civic leaders elsewhere, including in Quebec, to jump on the bandwagon.

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